فصل 25

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فصل 25

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Finding Mr. Rochester again

Ferndean Manor was a large old house in the middle of a wood. It looked dark and lonely, surrounded by trees. As I approached, the narrow front door opened, and out came a figure I could not fail to recognize, Edward Rochester. I held my breath as I watched, feeling a mixture of happiness and sadness. He looked as strong as before and his hair was still black, but in his face I saw a bitter, desperate look, that I had never seen there before. He walked slowly and hesitatingly along the path. Although he kept looking up eagerly at the sky, it was obvious that he could see nothing. After a while he stopped, and stood quietly there, the rain falling fast on his bent, uncovered head. Finally he found his way painfully back to the house, and closed the door.

When I knocked at the door, Mr. Rochester’s old servant, John, opened it and recognized me. He and his wife Mary were the only servants their master had wanted to keep when he moved from Thornfield. Although they were surprised to see me, I had no difficulty in arranging to stay at Ferndean that night.

‘But he may not want to see you,’ warned Mary, as we sat together in the kitchen. ‘He refuses to see anybody except us.’ She was lighting some candles. ‘He always wants candles in the sitting-room when it’s dark, even though he’s blind.’

‘Give them to me, Mary,’ I said. ‘I’ll take them to him.’ The blind man was sitting near the neglected fire in the dark room. ‘Put down the candles, Mary,’ he sighed.

‘Here they are, sir,’ I said.

‘That is Mary, isn’t it?’ he asked, listening carefully. ‘Mary’s in the kitchen,’ I answered.

‘What sweet madness has seized me?’ he cried suddenly. ‘Where is the speaker? I can’t see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop, and my brain will burst! Let me touch you, or I can’t live!’ I held his wandering hand with both of mine. ‘Is it Jane? This is her shape.’ He released his hand and seized my arm, shoulder, neck, waist and held me close to him.

‘She is here,’ I said, ‘and her heart too. I am Jane Eyre. I’ve found you and come back to you.’

‘My living darling! So you aren’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere! Is it a dream? I’ve dreamed so often of you, only to wake in the morning, abandoned, my life dark, my soul thirsty.’

‘I’m alive, and I’m not a dream. In fact, I’m an independent woman now. I’ve inherited five thousand dollars from my uncle.’

‘Ah, that sounds real! I couldn’t dream that. But perhaps you have friends now, and don’t want to spend much time in a lonely house with a blind man like me.’

‘I can do what I like, and I intend to stay with you, unless you object. I’ll be your neighbour, your nurse, your housekeeper, your companion. You will never be sad or lonely as long as I live.’

He did not reply immediately, and I was a little embarrassed by his silence. I had assumed he would still want me to be his wife, and wondered why he did not ask me.

‘Jane,’ he said sadly, ‘you cannot always be my nurse. It’s kind and generous of you, but you’re young, and one day you will want to marry. If I could only see, I’d try to make you love me again, but…’ and he sighed deeply.

I was very relieved to discover that was all he was worrying about, because I knew that his blindness made no difference at all to my love for him. However, I thought too much excitement was not good for him, so I talked of other things, and made him laugh a little. As we separated at bedtime, he asked me, ‘Just one thing, Jane. Were there only ladies in the house where you’ve been?’ I laughed, and escaped upstairs, still laughing. ‘A good idea!’ I thought. ‘A little jealousy will stop him feeling so sorry for himself!’

Next day I took him outside for a long walk in the fresh air. I described the beauty of the fields and sky to him, as we sat close together in the shade of a tree.

‘Tell me, Jane, what happened to you when you so cruelly abandoned me?’ he asked, holding me tightly in his arms.

And so I told him my story. Naturally he was interested in St John Rivers, my cousin.

‘This St John, do you like him?’

‘He’s a very good man. I couldn’t help liking him.’

‘He’s perhaps a man of fifty or so?’

‘St John is only twenty-nine, sir.’

‘Rather stupid, I think you said? Not at all intelligent?’

‘He has an excellent brain, sir.’

‘Did you say he was rather plain, ugly, in fact?’

‘St John is a handsome man, tall and fair, with blue eyes.’

Mr. Rochester frowned, and swore loudly.

‘In fact, sir,’ I continued, ‘he asked me to marry him.’

‘Well, Jane, leave me and go. Oh, until now I thought you would never love another man! But go and marry Rivers!’

‘I can never marry him, sir. He doesn’t love me, and I don’t love him. He’s good and great, but as cold as ice. You needn’t be jealous, sir. All my heart is yours.’

He kissed me. ‘I’m no better than the great tree hit by lightning at Thornfield,’ he said. ‘I can’t expect to have a fresh young plant like you by my side, all my life.’

‘You are still strong, sir, and young plants need the strength and safety of a tree to support them.’

‘Jane, will you marry me, a poor blind man with one hand, twenty years older than you?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘My darling! We’ll be married in three days’ time, Jane. Thank God! You know I never thought much of religion? Well, lately I’ve begun to understand that God has been punishing me for my pride and my past wickedness. Last Monday night, in a mood of deep depression, I was sitting by an open window, praying for a little peace and happiness in my dark life. In my heart and soul I wanted you. I cried out “Jane!” three times.’

‘Last Monday night, about midnight?’ I asked, wondering.

‘Yes, but that doesn’t matter. This is what’s really strange. I heard a voice calling “I’m coming, wait for me!” and “Where are you?” And then I heard an echo sent back by hills, but there’s no echo here, in the middle of the wood. Jane, you must have been asleep. Your spirit and mine must have met to comfort each other! It was your voice I heard!’

I did not tell him I had actually spoken those words many miles away, at that exact moment on that night, because I could hardly understand how it happened myself.

‘I thank God!’ said Edward Rochester, ‘and ask Him to help me live a better life in future!’ Together we returned slowly to Ferndean Manor, Edward leaning on my shoulder.

We had a quiet wedding. I wrote to tell the Rivers the news. Diana and Mary wrote back with delighted congratulations, but St John did not reply.

Now I have been married for ten years. I know what it is like to love and be loved. No woman has ever been closer to her husband than I am to Edward. I am my husband’s life, and he is mine. We are always together, and have never had enough of each other’s company. After two years his sight began to return in one eye. Now he can see a little, and when our first child was born and put into his arms, he was able to see that the boy had inherited his fine large black eyes.

Mrs. Fairfax is retired, and Adele has grown into a charming young woman. Diana and Mary are both married, and we visit them once a year. St John achieved his ambition by going to India as planned, and is still there. He writes to me regularly. He is unmarried and will never marry now. He knows that the end of his life is near, but he has no fear of death, and looks forward to gaining his place in heaven.

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